Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Mumbai
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Mumbai.
Hello! My name is Sheena and I guess I’m a repat, I was born in India but grew up in New Zealand and returned as an adult to live and work here. I’m a journalist and photographer turned blogger (This is Sheena) who has been living in (and out of) Mumbai for the last five years, seeking out stories about luxury, design and food!
What makes Mumbai a perfect destination for travelers seeking glamorous travel?
Mumbai is the financial capital of India, home to Bollywood, the country’s glam film industry and houses some of the world’s most expensive real estate (which explains why accommodation is so pricey) and travellers with cash to splash will love it. While it isn’t big on ‘sights’ though it has some beautiful buildings, it’s got a great pulse, and offers hip dining options, swanky shops and it’s brimming with art and culture.
Gateway of India
What 5 star hotel is the best in your town?
No hotel is more impressive than the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba. Inside the gorgeous building are sea facing rooms, crystal chandeliers, grand ballrooms, great restaurants and impeccable service. It has hosted some of history’s most well known figures (Gandhi, The Beatles, Barack and Michelle Obama!) and epitomizes old world decadence.
If you aren’t staying, spoil yourself by stopping by for high tea at Sea Lounge. In addition to finger sandwiches and little pastries, they have classic Indian street foods in perfectly petite portions.
What about boutique hotels, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
Abode Boutique Hotel is a real gem. It opened a year ago and has only received rave reviews. They have superior luxury rooms with clawfoot bathtubs all the way to cosy basic rooms with shared toilets for those on a budget.
Abode is dripping with charm and has beautiful heritage tiled floors, art deco furnishings, a great library, a lovely cafe. It’s the little details. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Where are the best hang outs during the day?
My favourite spots to work are Cafe Zoe in Lower Parel, and Birdsong Cafe and The Bagel Shop in Bandra. They are lovely light-filled spaces with creative energy, delicious food and locals and expats in somewhat equal measure.
Mumbai’s weather and lack of public spaces are a make outdoor activities a little bit tough but Mumbai has quite a few museums and contemporary art galleries to while away the day. Pick up the Mumbai Art Map for free at any of these locations and research what’s on before you go.
If design and heritage mean luxury to you, try and catch a movie at one of Mumbai’s art deco cinemas. Choose from single screens like Regal and Eros, or my personal favourite, the elegant Liberty Theatre!
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Mumbai and what are their best dishes?
For sophisticated fine dining, I adore The Table (Apollo Bunder Marg, Colaba). They keep things fresh and simple and I like getting a selection of their small plates. Their salads are exceptional and you should try the boneless chicken ‘wings’ and zucchini ‘spaghetti’ which have become their signature dishes.
Neel at Tote on the Turf (Racecourse, Mahalaxmi) makes delectable Indian food. You can’t go wrong with their kebabs, shorba and biryani with gucchi or morel mushrooms!
I also really enjoy Pali Village Cafe (Ambedkar Road, Bandra) for the ambience. The charming balcony is perfect for a date and I’m hella partial to the risotto and panna cotta.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
You are talking to the right girl!
The vibrant little neighbourhood of Kala Ghoda is my jam! Nobody does fine French patisserie like La Folie in Ropewalk Lane. You must try the gulkand (a sweet Indian rose petal preserve) macaron and the exquisite desserts.
Far more rustic and equally delicious are the cakes at Kala Ghoda Cafe right opposite – the chocolate cake is as good as the carrot cake is as good as the sticky ginger!
If you’re in Bandra, make a pitstop at Le 15 Patisserie and pack boxes of their wonderful choux and cupcakes!
A special shoutout goes out to Indigo Deli for its icecream sundaes, and Ellipsis for chef Kelvin Cheung’s inventive desserts.
How else can I get a dose of culture in the city?
There’s always something going on in Mumbai from classical ballet to stand up comedy!
For English theatre, check out the listings for NCPA and Prithvi Theatre (the latter has a lovely, relaxed outdoor cafe to enjoy a cup of tea or Irish coffee before the show) and to catch live music, the Blue Frog is the city’s go-to music venue. Check ticketing site bookmyshow.com for what’s on and where!
Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who’s carrying the trendy local designers? Are there designers we should make sure to meet?
Bungalow 8 is my favourite store in the city, a beautifully curated multi-level concept store that stocks great clothes, in addition to interior and lifestyle products. Their in-house fashion label The Bungalow by Matthieu Gugumus Leguillon is super chic!
Bombay Electric is fresh and edgy and carries many fantastic local designers!
One of my favourite labels is Obataimu which makes bespoke clothing for men and women and has a beautiful shop in Kala Ghoda. It’s spendy because everything is made to order and the textiles are so wonderfully lush.
And for the perfect button down shirt, dudes should head to the Bombay Shirt Company just a few doors down.
For beautiful Indian clothes, drop into Ensemble and Sabyasachi, both temples of designer desi garb and for what the rest of the world calls resortwear, I love Ahilaya.
If you’re looking for cool souvenirs, check out Kulture Shop for tees and prints by Indian graphic artists as well as design store Filter which stocks great stationery, maps, mags and other trinkets.
Lastly for great homeware and decor items, check out Good Earth and Freedom Tree.
Bombay Shirt Company
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Mumbai?
I haven’t been myself but I have it on good authority that people love the Four Seasons spa and the L’Occitane spa Love of Spa.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
If this means drinks, I head to Aer atop The Four Seasons in Worli. Mumbai’s magic hour is sublime and sunset happy hour runs from 530pm to 8pm so it can’t be beat for a glass of bubbly and panoramic views of the city and the sea.
View from Aer
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
Some of the most popular pre-gaming spots in Mumbai are the members-only sports and social clubs. If you have a local friend with the hookup, head to one of these for drinks. They’re great places to socialise and pack in lots of old world charm the drinks are always very affordable. My favourites are Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Willingdon Club and Otter’s Club.
Alternatively check out the wildly popular Colaba Social, or The Daily in Bandra, which are currently local favourites.
If you’re feeling fancy, head to Dome at the InterContinental for a glimpse of the glittering Queen’s Necklace, a nickname given to glittering Marine Drive when viewed from an elevated place at night.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
Personally I think Mumbai’s clubs are highly overrated. However, many high-end restaurants across the city turn into party venues and the people are generally beautiful and interesting, the music is dance worthy and the gender ratio is good. I like bar nights at Olive, and Pali Bhavan in Bandra.
Sheena Dabholkar likes exploring, writing, taking pictures and above all, growing or making things with her hands. She blogs at thisissheena.com about the things she loves like design in India but also (world) travel and food. A professional photographer, writer and art director, she currently lives between Mumbai and Pune. Check out her blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +.
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